2nd April 2014: Who Were the Normans?

The final lecture in the Society's current programme took place on Wednesday 2nd April when David Carder gave a talk on the subject of the Norman conquest. Beginning with the question 'Who were the Normans?' Mr Carder explained that they were of Viking stock and settled in France with the permission of the French king to provide protection from further Viking invasions. There were strong links between Normandy and England, and William of Normandy claimed that he had been promised the throne of England by Edward the Confessor and that Harold had sworn an oath in support of William's succession. However, when Edward died, Harold was crowned king. As a result William gathered an army of 15,000 men and 700 ships to invade England and enforce William's claim to the throne. Mr Carder gave a detailed description of the events that followed, tracing the progress of the invading army from its landing at Pevensey, its defeat of Harold's army at Battle where Harold was killed, to its arrival at Berkhamstead where William accepted the surrender of the English nobility. On 25th December 1066 just three months after the Norman invasion on 28th September, William was crowned king in Westminster Abbey. It took the Normans several decades to extend their control over the rest of England, but by 1100 AD (when they subdued Wales) the Norman possessions included England, northern France, southern Italy and Sicily, and Antioch.

The second half of Mr Carder's lecture was devoted to an illustrated commentary on the Bayeux tapestry. The scenes depicted in the tapestry not only provide a description of the events leading up to the Norman invasion and of the conquest itself but also give fascinating details that enliven and expand the narrative. Mr Carder ended his talk by explaining that the final section of the tapestry is lost but in 2012 embroiderers in Alderney took up the challenge to complete the tapestry and made a ten foot panel in a year. French authorities have been so impressed they have commissioned the exhibit to go alongside the original tapestry in time for Bayeux's annual medieval festival in July 2014. It will remain on display there until September.

Jenny Oram